Veganuary is a wonderful way to consume a more conscious diet, cut your carbon footprint and explore new ways of eating. But it's best used as a stepping stone towards changes that last
By: Ed Cooper
Looking to make some changes to your health this coming January? Read this article first, then decide on your level of commitment. Whether you’re looking to try a new diet (find out about the most popular choices here), cut the booze or carve out some regular time for exercise, many see the first 31 days of the new year as a launchpad to making real change in their lives, without much thought to what comes next.
One increasingly popular choice is taking part in ‘Veganuary’, in which hundreds of thousands of people pledge to go meat-free for the entirety of January by switching to a vegan diet. In January 2021, it was reported that approximately 500,000 people around the world took part in Veganuary, a quarter of whom were from the UK.
Reduction in animal suffering (46%) and improving personal health (22%) were both cited as reasons to tackle the month-long challenge. With the EU's animal farms alone responsible for around 500m tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year – that's more than cars and vans combined – 21% of respondents also wanted to cut the environmental damage caused by food production. But is making such a drastic change to your diet a smart move, or nutritional negligence? Let’s chew the fat.
Firstly, if you’ve got beef with the emission-heavy meat industry, there's no denying that one of the most impactful ways to slash your carbon footprint is to adopt a plant-based diet. A simple concept, of course, but a crucial challenge presents itself once you start: sticking to it once February rolls around.
After all, whatever your motivation, it's undeniable that you're going to undo a lot of January's good if you revert to red meat every night once the month is up. And the bigger the shift, the harder it can be to stick to your new diet. Which is why, rather than going the whole hog (even if it is a mock-hog, made from tofu) the wiser approach might be to ease your way in. You could cut your meat intake far more over the next 12 months if you start slowly.
For unabashed carnivores looking to turn over a new (and, we promise, genuinely delicious) leaf, it can be difficult getting used to comparatively lower-calorie ingredients. But don’t let hunger pangs trip you up. Keep your protein intake high by incorporating foods such as tofu, tempeh and lentils. Loaded with phytonutrients and amino acids, high-protein vegan ingredients like these are easy to digest and will leave you satiated. Better yet, use them as the building blocks for new recipes and you’re onto a winner.
If you do decide to start with baby steps, then an ideal starting point — and one plastered over social media — is to ease your way in with one or two meat-free days each week. If you do, then according to the folks who collect the data at Veganuary, you’ll be among the 75% of people that plan to halve their animal product intake after January. Happily, Huel can help speed things up without compromising your taste buds, since every Huel product is completely plant-based and contains all your essential vitamins and minerals, as well as all the protein, fat, carbs, fibre and phytonutrient that your body needs to thrive.
Make the switch and you could find yourself in fine fettle. Studies have found that veganism is the healthiest diet choice — specifically, when compared to vegetarian, ‘flexitarian’, pesco-vegetarian and omnivorous diets — but be aware that just eating vegan doesn't automatically mean you're eating healthily (chips, after all, are completely vegan).
As with everything, variety is the key – eating a wide range of foods will ensure you get all the micro- and macronutrients your body needs (again, Huel can help here, since it contains the full spectrum of essential amino acids in every serving). For example, vitamin B12 – which vegan diets can often be light on – plays a vital role in producing red blood cells and can be found in soy products and fortified alternative milks or cereal. Similarly, you can nix meat sources and still get your fill of iron: just add dark leafy greens, nuts and dried fruits to your food plan. Keeping recipes varied and interesting will keep you in the long game.
Jumping straight into fully-fledged veganism may not be the best move for everyone come January. Instead, start with more plant-based choices and look to build up more gradually. You can still do your bit for the environment on the side while you work towards minimising your meat and animal product consumption. To that end, consider this: you could slash your carbon footprint by 50% if you switch to two plant-based meals a day. If even that feels like too big a step, then switching to just one will cut it by 35%. Food for thought, we think you’ll agree.
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